This is the final edition of the 'Great Expectations' series.  So far I've looked at Aaron Enns as he heads into his final season of Junior-A hockey, Nathan Boyer as he looks to become a large part of the Ice Wolves offence, and Graham Smerek as he takes on larger responsibilities both offensively and in his own end.

I finish up with a player who enjoyed a break out playoffs, especially against the Melfort Mustangs in the Bauer Conference Finals and finished with seven goals in 17 playoff games.  He's also one of the largest players on the ice for the Wolves and could grow into one of the top power forwards in the league.

Read on as I break down the forecast on Skyler Hladun.

As the title says, this isn't an official roster, it's something I put together today when I was asked about it.

I could be missing a player if someone's still with the team that I haven't heard about or if a player is no longer with the team, but it should be about 95% accurate as to what the roster will be on Friday.  We also know this could change considerably by the end of the first month of the season.

Sorry if I missed someone, let me know so I can fix it if I did.

Marc-Andre Carre (’91)
Aaron Enns (’91)
Pat Tran (’91)
Jordan Ethier (’91)
Skyler Hladun (’92)
Nathan Boyer (’92)
Graham Smerek (’92)
Brodie Eisbrenner (’92)
Brett McNevin (’92)
Pavlo Zerebecky (’92)
Johney Cormier (’92)
Tyson Vallette (’93)

Ben Bula (’91)
Matt Weisensel (’91)
David Greyeyes (’91) *injured
Alex Vandenameele (’92)
Alex Cameron (’92)
Louis-Joseph Sawyer (’93)
Brett Hope (’93)
Scott Helmkay (’93)
Franklin Cook (’93) *could be up front

Alex Rajotte (’91)
Myles Hovdebo (’92)
As you can see, this isn't a depth chart or anything like that and is just in order of age.  Interesting to note the lack of 18 year old forwards on the team.  Just one or two if Cook moves up front, which I think is distinctly possible.  So while it was looking like the Wolves would be a pretty young team up front, the new players brought in like Tran, Eisbrenner and McNevin along with other recruits make this Wolves team a relatively experienced outfit.  The name on the top of that list (Carre), unfortunately for the Wolves, will be gone in a month.  

The defence looks fairly similar to last season, age wise.  There are, however, more 18 year olds on the roster and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to the SJHL game.

The home opener is a mere...
That much away!  So pick up your tickets for the game and get loud!

Because hockey season is back, and that is a good thing.

Sometimes, you see a bit of news that just makes you smile for a little bit.  When I saw that Marc-Andre Carre would be playing for the Ice Wolves on Friday, I was still only cautiously optimistic.  Who knows, I could have misunderstood the ambiguous Facebook post that led to my current mood boost.

So when I spoke with Coach Beatty about Pat Tran coming to La Ronge I told him what  I had seen and after playing coy for a few moments and taking a little bit of convincing, Beatty decided to let a relatively closely guarded secret come to light.  At this point I started smiling in earnest.  This is what I refer to as 'Good News'.

There have been rumours of M-A-C playing the first month in an Ice Wolves uniform all summer.  About a week ago they seemed to die down and it looked like it wasn't going to be happening.  After all, Carre has his first pro-contract to be worrying about.  It's not ridiculous to say that he wouldn't be playing in the SJHL and focusing on Rio Grande.  However, this time the rumours panned out and the 2011 SJHL MVP will suit up for the Wolves home opener and the subsequent 5-6 games.

The news makes me happy because, frankly, I just flat out enjoy watching the guy play hockey.  Even watching during some of the skates he participated in during Wolves training camp, he's an excellent talent to be playing in Junior-A hockey.  So getting to call a few more games featuring Carre is pretty exciting.

For readers new to my blog, and might be wondering why the gush-fest?  I wish I had a highlight reel for you.  Carre put up 106 points in 55 games and was only held pointless in a slight few.  Some of his 39 goals left the entire stadium speechless.  The best being in Weyburn during the SJHL Showcase when he went through four Battlefords North Stars and left the goaltender wondering what just happened.  

Especially for a team that may have issues putting the puck in the net like the Ice Wolves this season, Carre is just what the doctor ordered, even if only for a few games.  It takes some of the pressure off the new players, and as they (I'm not sure who) say, "scoring is contagious." 

In a league that looks like it could be very close 2-6, the addition of Carre could give the Wolves that extra couple points that factors into home ice advantage.  We saw just how close it was at the end of the season with Melville and Notre Dame in the South and in the North, Flin Flon and Battlefords.  If the presence of Carre helps the Wolves get 4 more points than they might have, those could come in handy down the road.

I'm not expecting M-A-C to roll in and get three points a game for the month, but he presents a weapon the Wolves didn't have before.  Something else the opposition has to look out for, giving other players more time and space.  Even if he doesn't get a point (doubtful), he has an effect on the game.

For Ice Wolves fans hoping to see Marc-Andre in action, get out to the home opener!  It could be his only home game as the Wolves will be on the road until September 30th.  I don't know when he's headed to Texas, but why chance it?  Get out to the Mel on Friday and see one of the best players to ever don an Ice Wolves jersey on the ice in La Ronge for one of the last times.

Friday's looking to be a fun night!

The Ice Wolves are lacking in experience, something Coach Bob Beatty values greatly.  The Humboldt Broncos are, well, very overstocked in the experience department, so it comes as no surprise (ties between the teams aside) that Broncos Coach and GM, Dean Brockman and Beatty were able to help each other out.

The Wolves acquire 20-year old centre, Pat Tran (5'9, 179 lbs), in return for the ambiguous 'Future Considerations'.  I have zero insight as to what the 'Futures' would be, but I doubt it will be a player to be named later.  Seeing as Humboldt was dealing from surplus, it's not a deadline deal and finally, Beatty doesn't make 'player to be named' deals often. 

As for Tran, he played in 29 games last season for Humboldt and tallied five goals to go with five asists and 20 penalty minutes.  In six playoff games, he also added two assists.

Coach Beatty says about Tran, "We're getting an experienced centreman that's played in the league, he's got two years of junior hockey under his belt and he's a gritty forward that plays with a little bit of bite and is good on the faceoffs."

Beatty also mentioned Tran was a penalty killer in Humboldt, so it isn't a stretch to say he could be anchoring the Wolves shut down unit even strength and consistently taking draws on the PK.  Definitely not a bad player to add to the mix.

Where do you think Pat Tran fits into the Ice Wolves lineup?

I got in touch with Bob Beatty today to check in on the Wolves situation at this stage of the pre-season.

He was considerably more pleased with the product on the ice, for both teams. "I thought we executed a lot better and I thought we outplayed Melfort for the majority of the game," said Beatty of the team's effort.  One thing that does seem to be an issue is putting the puck in the net as he commented, "We had a little difficulty scoring, and certainly we're not pushing the panic button, but you know it's certainly an issue that's of some concern."

It seems like the veteran presence with Hladun, Bula, Vandenameele and Enns getting back in the lineup brought a lot more stability to the Wolves game, as displayed by the much stronger effort.  In goal, Alex Rajotte played the full 60 minutes and looked solid.  That isn't an indicator that Rajotte is moving into the starter role, Hovdebo is nursing some soreness, so didn't play in the interest of keeping healthy.

Okay, enough about the game on Sunday.  A couple of roster notes for the Wolves as some guys are gone from camp now.  Tom Kempinski is on his way to the Princeton Posse of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.  That's the same league Ben Bula played in before coming to La Ronge.

The Wolves also released Tyler Suchiu last week.  He had the skills to be a very decent scorer, but I think the issue was there was just too much to fix for a 20-year old and an import.  The Wolves have a lot of imports trying to make the club, and both Suchiu and Kempinski were imports (USA) so they were partially victims of that situation.

With those two out of camp that puts the Ice Wolves into the 22-23 player area so the roster should be just about set for Friday's home opener when the Pack welcomes Nipawin to the Mel.

A quick update on Rhyse Dieno and Jared Iron.  According to blogs following the teams, both survived another round of cuts.  Dieno looks to have a pretty good chance of sticking with Medicine Hat at the moment, with only 2-3 more cuts to be made from the forward ranks.  Iron is still in good shape, but some young players in Kootenay are definitely putting on pressure.  Good luck to both of you as the regular season approaches!

So grab your tickets for the opener, especially since the next home game isn't till the end of the month, and start the season off loud.

More to come as we progress through the week!

I wasn't at the game in Melfort, so I was relying on the excellent updates by Branden Crowe from the Palace.  Sounds like it was a much better game, if only just from the score.  That was to be expected when the Wolves entered four of their veterans into the mix.

Skyler Hladun and Aaron Enns didn't waste much time getting on the scoresheet.  They got the Wolves ahead 1-0 only 15 seconds into the second frame.  Since I didn't see the goal I can only imagine Enns toe-dragging through all three Mustangs forwards and passing to Hladun who ran over the defencemen and deked the goaltender out of his gear.  Or something like that.  Okay nothing like that, but it's good to see them get in the points column right away.

Alex Rajotte got the start in his brilliant red and yellow Drakkar pads.  If we assume, he played the first 30 minutes and Myles Hovdebo got the back half, then it's possible Rajotte played a perfect 30.  Again, I don't have all the info.

The Mustangs evened it up late in the second as Brett Tofarenko picked up the marker.  I'm sure it was a dazzling display of goal scoring prowess, likely with a spin-o-rama mixed in somewhere.  1-1 after two periods with the Ice Wolves leading in the shots department 24-13.

The third period continued on much like the rest of the game, tied.  Until, with 1:32 remaining in regulation, Landon Belchamber put a dagger in the Wolves road hopes and gave the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.  Mitch Berg picked up the assist, at which point Ice Wolves fans reading this are going, "Mitch Berg is still on the Mustangs?  I thought he aged out last year?"  Nope.  Still around and causing problems for the Wolves in the pre-season.

The Ice Wolves finished the contest with a 35-25 edge in the shot department which is definitely a positive number as that makes two games in a row where they've outshot the Mustangs.  Also positive, the Wolves didn't lose by five.  The pre-season is all about improvement and the process of getting the team ready for the Regular Season.

The Wolves open against the Nipawin Hawks this Friday at 7:30.  So if you've been putting off buying your season tickets, now's the time to get them.  I believe they're printed ready to go so you can get your hands on them right when you buy them.  I'm not positive of that, though.  

I'm hoping to get in touch with Bob Beatty today or tomorrow at which point I can kind update you on the goings on around the team.  In the meantime, continue patiently, or impatiently waiting for hockey season to begin.


P.S. If I fall off the face of the Earth over the next few days (including not showing up to work, Kelly) it's because NHL 12 comes out Tuesday and lets be honest, the online team I play on takes precedence over most basic points of living.
First off, thanks for all the traffic in the last week or so.  My hits graph has absolutely spiked setting records for the website.  A new record was set yesterday with over 1,000 page views and over 800 unique visitors.  Thank you for your support!

With the regular season quickly approaching (a week away), there's still a lot up in the air when it comes to the Ice Wolves.  Who will be on the roster on the 16th of September?  A lot of that will be riding on Sunday's exhibition game in Melfort (7:30 p.m.).  After that point, I expect the roster will be close to set as Bob Beatty tries to get this new squad prepared for the opening week, which is pretty busy. 

Players will be coming in and out of camp, many from BC and Alberta as they look for opportunities in the SJHL.  Lots of teams have benefited from picking up a good player who was, for some reason, passed over.  The Ice Wolves did exactly that last season when they brought Fort McMurry native, Graham Smerek on to the roster.

No Charles Dickens to start this one off.  Part One ended up sparking some pretty heated discussion and it will be interesting to see where we go with that.  I love getting comments on blog posts even if people disagree with me, it's cool to get some good discussions going.  I just ask that comments stay respectful and the language is clean.  Remember, somebody's grandma may be reading (including mine).

So with that out of the way, the attention comes to Nathan Boyer who's certainly grabbing enough attention on his own in La Ronge with the frequency he's finding the back of the net at training camp.

Here's information on the Ice Wolves Jail and Bail.
My thought.  Spend 20 bucks and lock up 20 people for a minute.  See how crowded it can get for 60 seconds.

Before I get into the game last night, I want to send my condolences to all of those who lost someone in this morning's tragic plane crash in Russia.

Family, friends, former teammates and even fans lost people today in this tragedy that words are so inadequate to describe.

Watching Ruslan Salei and Team Belarus play against Team Germany was the highlight of my Olympic Experience in Vancouver and it's shocking to see the names on the roster that are gone.  As a sports fan, it's horrible and as a person, it's unbelievably tragic.

I'm going to keep the recap short for today, read on for the Ice Wolves and Mustangs result.